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My Comment To The FCC On Net Neutrality


You can—and should—send a comment to the FCC regarding their 180-degree reversal on net neutrality. Here is what I wrote to them:

I don’t have a comment so much as a question: What is the benefit of the FCC’s recommendation in this case to the American people?

There’s an obvious and direct tie to how ISPs would benefit from this new rule—that is, they’ll be able to turn the Internet into cable TV, where there are “basic” and “premium” sites—but I don’t see how it is at all beneficial to the average American.

Currently, I enjoy the same access to all sites across the Internet. If the FCC implements this new rule, I will not—simple as that.

What is the benefit?

You can submit your own comments (Note: It took me several tries, so keep submitting until you get a confirmation page) by doing the following:

  • Go to http://www.fcc.gov/comments
  • Look for the proceeding number, 14-28, and click it.
  • Fill out the form and keep submitting it until you get a confirmation page.

Net neutrality is the only thing keeping the Internet from turning into cable TV. If you don’t want to have “premium” websites that you have to pay extra for—think YouTube, Facebook or anything else you like—make sure the FCC hears you on this.

Photo: Arbri Shamenti / Flickr

Don’t Forget What Technology Is For

Image of a green field under blue sky

All this social media, all these iPhones, and Google Glass, and streaming TV shows online—let’s not forget what it’s for. We built all this stuff to make our lives easier and more convenient, so we’d have more time to experience the world.

You no longer have to get photos developed.

You no longer have to go to the bank.

You don’t even have to actually talk to your friends to keep up.

I promise that a boatload of Likes and retweets will be waiting for you on Monday. Today, go out and do something.

Photo: Tobias / Flickr

Google+ Is Dead, Unless It Works For You

Image of a Dead End sign

A favorite pastime among tech bloggers is declaring stuff “dead.” They like it even more than declaring stuff living, which is weird, but people love being able to say, “called it.”

I’m always skeptical of those kinds of predictions. Even when they’re right, and they sometimes are, “dead” doesn’t really mean dead so much as “past the event horizon of a supermassive black hole, but without noticing it, and still has a long way to go until certain doom.”

With this week’s Google+ news, I’m not even sure that’s true, so it’s a little suspect for TechCrunch to declare Google+ “Walking Dead.” Maybe they did it for clicks, maybe they just got a little overzealous—who knows? And who cares! If you’re a Google+ user, this is all that matters: Google+ is as dead as your audience there.

Should you pay attention to this stuff? Absolutely. Like any social network, you should know how much you’re getting out of it. If that ROI decreases, you should find out why and react accordingly. But don’t freak out. Just because a social network isn’t one of the popular social networks doesn’t mean it can’t work for you. Shit, you guys, there are audiences to be found on fucking MySpace.

If you spend your time chasing every fad network that pops up and jumping off old ones as soon as people start talking shit, you’re going to fail. Where’s your audience? Figure that out, and you could end up without a Facebook, Instagram or Snapchat page and be the most successful social media strategist in the room.

Photo: bill lapp / Flickr

What Social Media Has In Common With A 5-Year-Old Kid

Kid Goad

I was in a grocery store a few months back, standing in line in front of, respectively, a woman and her 5-ish-year-old kid, and a white-haired guy in his 60s/70s. Without prompting, the kid looked at the old man, and then at his mom, and said, “Mommy, that man’s really old.” The guy seemed to take it in stride and laughed a bit, and the mom, who was obviously embarrassed, said “you shouldn’t say things like that” and apologized. But then, the kid said something even worse: “Is he gonna die soon?”

Awkward. Bomb. Dropped.

The old man, again, tried to play it off. His mouth said, “Heh, I hope not,” but his eyes said, “probably.” I didn’t stick around long enough to hear how the mom reacted to that one.

If your brand is on social media, you are the mom, your audience is the little kid and your product is the (hopefully not 70)-year-old man.

People still don’t get this. Social media is not a space for everyone to like everything you do. It’s a space where brutal honesty, and often times downright snark, reigns over all else. If your product is good and of actual value, people will like it and engage with you. If it’s not—if it’s decrepit, decaying, or just plain sucks—social media won’t fix that.

In short, your social media is a reflection of your product, not the other way around. Make good stuff, and make yourself useful on social media, and support will follow.

Photo: Koen / Flickr

The 1 Reason I’m Not Reading Your 82 Blogging Tips


I get the need for evergreen content, but here’s why I don’t read posts like “82 blogging tips” or “100 of the Best Twitter accounts”:

  1. It’s too fucking many.

If you have 82 blogging tips, you have enough content to produce a nice-looking whitepaper, perhaps in PDF format. I don’t want to spend time trying to reformat your weird blog into an acceptable print format, nor do I want to stare at a computer for 82 tips.

Speaking of evergreen content, Buffer has some great suggestions for how to make it work.

Photo: Bonnie Rambatan / Flickr

What Gardening Can Teach You About Social Media

Credit: Greg Younger / Flickr

My friend Imelda Dulcich shared a great post yesterday in which the central thesis was that planning a Facebook page is like planning a garden: You should have an idea of what you want it to look like before you start.

Gardening is also a nice analogy for social media in general:

  • Like Imelda said, it takes planning and forethought.
  • It requires you to tend to it constantly.
  • It’s never really “done.”
  • It’s on display for everyone to see, at all times.
  • If you cut corners, people will notice.

Think about that. Think of your social presence as your little garden, and think about how you treat it. How does your garden look? Is it how you want it? What do you want?

Good stuff to think about this spring.

Photo: Greg Younger / Flickr


If you have the new Twitter profile, you’ve probably noticed Favorites are a lot more prominent. And, as Kevan Lee pointed out the other day, you may want to rethink your “favoriting” strategy because of it.

I, for example, use the Favorite button as a Like button for Twitter and as a read-later button (I have an IFTTT recipe that adds all my favorites to my Pocket account).

What would be awesome, and what I’m sure Twitter won’t do but anyway, is if each user could customize the language on their page to say whatever they wanted. So like, I could change the word “Favorite” on my page to “Read Later” or “Best Tweets.” Universally, it would still be called the Favorite button, but users would know there’s an added layer of context.

This would do two great things:

  1. It would play into existing behavior. Most Twitter users I know have their own way of using the Favorite button, and it varies pretty widely.
  2. It would incentivize Twitter users to visit each other’s pages and thus spend more time on the site. Think about it: If you got a notification that someone “favorited” one of your tweets, wouldn’t you click through to see what they meant by that?

Like I said, Twitter probably won’t do this, but they should. It would be one small customization that would make the overall experience better.

Why Twitter Is Trying To Be Facebook

Coletivo Mambembe / Flickr

Coletivo Mambembe / Flickr

In the last few months, Twitter has hinted at a gradual slide toward looking and feeling more like Facebook. Specifically, its teased a Facebook-y redesign for profiles, toyed with getting rid of @ mentions, and just yesterday, it introduced multi-photo tweets and photo tagging.

For Twitter purists, this sucks. As Gizmodo put it, if we wanted Twitter to be Facebook… we’d be on Facebook.

But for Twitter, the changes and proposed changes aren’t without good reason. For starters, just look at the world’s most popular social networks:

If that wasn’t enough, Twitter was just surpassed by Instagram in terms of total U.S. mobile users.

In short, Twitter needs to grow. It appears it’s trying to do that by appealing to the masses—and no social network is more massive than Facebook. It’s familiar, and maybe familiarity will be enough to get some people to try Twitter.

Whether more Facebook-like features are implemented will depend on how Twitter’s core users react. There’s a balance to be struck between “things we can do to attract new users” and “things that will attract new users but piss off old ones.”

Expect the search for that balance to become more intense and more regular. Twitter is, after all, a publicly traded company now.

Russell Wilson Talks to the Media

One of the best things I’ve implemented to boost my productivity at work is Tac Anderson’s GTD hack. The part that helps me the most is writing out what my day will look like, hour by hour.

Lately—and you’ll notice this per the notes above—I’ve been taking a page from another productivity master’s book: Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson. Here’s what Wilson said he did during halftime at the Super Bowl that helped the Hawks keep momentum going into the second half:

I took my whole uniform off, I took a shower and everything — we had about 45 minutes. So I took a shower, I re-taped everything, got my arm stretched again — we got into a whole ‘nother stretch again. So that kinda restarted our minds. And so we came out of halftime, it felt like it was a brand-new game.

I don’t always have the luxury of a 45-minute break in the middle of the day at work, but on days when I do, I make a point to take a break. I’ll go out for a walk, get lunch, whatever, and when I come back, I re-evaluate what I have to do for the rest of the day. I treat the second four hours like it’s a whole new day. Here’s what it looks like:

An image of Paul Balcerak's day planner

The effect is twofold: (1) It makes the day seem shorter, since it’s broken up into two manageable chunks; and (2) it helps me focus on the absolute must-do stuff, because rather than having eight whole hours! to do whatever I need, my time appears more limited.

Try it out this week. Write out the first half of your Monday tonight, before you go to bed, and then re-plan the noon/1-5 p.m. half of your day at lunch tomorrow.

Photo credit: WEBN-TV / Flickr

A photo of books in a library

I’ve been collecting a higher-than-average number of social media links lately. I thought I’d drop some of the more standout ones here in case you don’t follow my Tumblr or Delicious accounts:

Photo: CCAC North Library / Flickr